Publications around the world would have you believe that Michelle Obama's arms inspired a 4,378% increase in upper arm lift surgeries in America over the past decade.
"Women opting for surgery to get Michelle Obama arms" declares the Los Angeles Times.
There's a problem with this theory, which derives from a press release from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS).
The huge spike in upper arm lifts occurred from 2000 to 2006 , before Michelle Obama became First Lady.
ASPS data shows that t he number of female upper arm lifts jumped 4,199 percent between 2000 and 2006. The rise dropped off the following year, with a 6 percent drop from 2006 to 2007. Since then, there have been only single-digit increases or decreases year-to-year for the cosmetic procedure.
So why is everyone crediting Michelle? The Obama theory was inspired by a several quotes in the ASPS press release about celebrities inspiring surgery, along with a non-scientific survey which concluded that women " most admire" Michelle Obama's arms.
A plastic surgeon we spoke to said that the truth is not that simple.
" I think that it would be hard to say that (the upper arm lift increase) is due to any one factor," said Alan Matarasso, a Manhattan plastic surgeon and spokesman for the ASPS. "Where (Obama) comes in is there was always buzz about that and our society did a little survey and they found that people admired Kelly Ripa, Jennifer Aniston, Michelle Obama's arms."
The increase in upper-arm lifts could also be related to the rise of bariatric surgery — an obesity treatment — after which patients often go for follow-up nips and tucks.
The ASPS press release cites a 24-year-old woman who said she got an upper arm lift because she wanted to remove the excess skin on her arms after her 170-pound weight loss.
" That's definitely part of it," Matarasso said. "I t takes people a while for people to realize that they have all this extra skin they don't want."
The surgeon also pointed to new fashion trends as an explanation for the spike in arm surgeries.
" Women 10 years ago didn't walk around with shirts with their bra straps hanging out. When I was growing up, only the class bad girl did that," Matarasso said. "Now, it's like a fashion statement."
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